Posted in Life

On clutter …

I don’t like clutter: things scattered haphazardly on any available surface, all inviting tiny molecules of dust to settle on them, all moving of their own accord to look out of alignment and to crowd together in a state of general untidiness.

On Thursday morning last week, Tim and I arrived back in the state with a car bursting with … well, it’s not the technical term but I’m going to call it “stuff”. The man at the quarantine check in Devonport had been mightily impressed with my packing skills, saying that he’d never seen a vehicle so well-packed. If a car could be said to be stuffed full – our car was it.

Tim had to go back to work that morning and I had to collect a hire car to drive for a little over two hours to do a school visit. Our car stayed stuffed.

On Friday morning Tim headed back to work and I only had an hour’s drive to visit another school, so I spent half an hour unpacking the car.

A full thirty minutes and there was barely a dent in the stuff still packed in the car. In fact, Tim walked past it that afternoon and didn’t even notice that the car was no longer bursting.

But when I walked into the lounge room, I could tell. Stuff everywhere. Bags of unidentified belongings, pillows, doonas, blankets, sheets, photos, canvases, others’ art works we’ve gathered over the years, trinkets, clothes, old school reports, information kits of one kind or another (do you reckon it’s too late to do the bowel test I got a kit for two years ago?) … even a bag of coat hangers. All dumped in the lounge room, and the hallway, and the bathroom, and our bedroom, and the guest room and my study. Oh, and the kitchen.

And look, even in the laundry. How could one car hold so much?

It reminded me of what my house used to look like when I was the mother of four young children. Stuff everywhere. No semblance of order. No rhyme or reason why any of it was where it was – it just was. And it was mostly covered in dried weetbix or porridge …

When we lived in Queensland, the neighbour’s little boy once told his mother that he really liked my car … because it had everything you could ever want in it! A very polite way of saying it was a mess.

And that’s what the house looked like on Friday morning. And it looked exactly the same on Friday evening when I returned from the school I’d visited. Tim arrived home from work, had a spurt of energy and finished unloading the car. There was barely enough floor, couch, table, bed, desk space for it all. We cleared a space on the couch to sit, and did our best to ignore it all. It oozed untidiness from every corner.

On Saturday morning, despite the prospect of a four hour drive north, I was up at 5am putting the bathroom in order. You can only imagine the strong sense of satisfaction I felt when everything fitted in the cupboard in an orderly way!

Out of the safe (i.e. tidy) confines of the bathroom, I felt burdened by the piles and piles and piles of things. What is all this stuff? Where did it come from? Had the neighbours added to it while I wasn’t looking?  And where was it all going to go? We’d thought the house was already full, but now we had to find extra places for the litter of possessions covering every surface.

Now that I no longer have little children, I like things neat. Well-ordered. Straight. A bed that’s made makes for a much neater room than an unmade bed; a kitchen bench that’s unencumbered with every utensil known to humankind is a delight to behold; a lounge room floor that is not a trip hazard makes me a happy girl. Pencils lying on a desk look better when they’re straight. A box of tissues on the fridge looks neater when it’s straight. A pile of mail on the table … you get the idea.

And so to Sunday morning. De-clutter day. What a great day! By Sunday afternoon we had bags and bags (and bags) of things we didn’t want, ready to take to an op shop; we had bags and bags of rubbish (why did we keep that and that or … goodness, what is that?) and best of all we had beautifully organised cupboards and drawers.

And yes, just in case you’re wondering, my sock drawer has straight rows of socks. If I was home I’d take a picture – it really looks that good!

Even my mother, the queen of unclutter, would be impressed.

Just don’t open that cupboard Mum!

Posted in Life

On illness …

My sister and I were talking yesterday.  In person. (We can do that now that we live closer to each other.)

We were discussing how like our mother we are in relation to illness. Mum has no truck with people who are sick. It’s all in their heads. If they wanted to get better they would, and if they’d been more determined they wouldn’t have been sick in the first place. You sneeze and say I’m getting a cold and Mum would respond with ‘stop it. You’ll talk yourself into getting sick’.

Deb and I are like our mother. People allow themselves to get sick. They don’t talk themselves out of it. We have an absolute conviction that illness can be stopped with the right attitude. In fact, Dad used to say it a lot when we were kids: mind over matter. We developed strong minds.

Deb and I are doomed – it comes from both parents.

I felt good yesterday to discover that I wasn’t the only one with this attitude (besides my mother). Deb has it too. We joked about it, and felt good about being so self-aware as we wondered down the main street of Bright, laughing that it was only in this that we were like our mother.

Our self-awareness hasn’t changed our attitude though.

And without wanting to jinx ourselves, Deb and I tend not to get sick. And neither does Mum. Everyone around us might be burning up with fever, coughing and sneezing their hearts out, have throats red raw, be laid flat with whatever’s going around and we tend to sail on through unscathed.

When we do get sick though, we get sick. Mum was sick earlier in the year. Her and Dad were visiting Tasmania and then our new place and she wasn’t at all well. But would she take it easy? Not on your life! No giving in to a cold, no spending time resting up … taking it easy is for wimps, and by golly our mother is not a wimp.

Sickness is for the weak, and she is strong.

Let me just say, as an aside, that people who have this attitude are very bad patients!

Deb and I have, it seems, inherited her attitude. And thankfully, her constitution. We rarely get sick.

We joke about our attitude, and in mixed company pretend that we really don’t think that sickness is for the weak and that if you really wanted you wouldn’t get sick in the first place … but in our hearts we know that it’s not pretend. It’s a truth we live with.

It’s not an easy thing to admit so openly. Turn it around for a moment and imagine how hard it must be for us, having no patience with a loved one curled up in a ball on the couch, red-nosed and sounding like Shirley Bassey on a bad day. Imagine how difficult it is for us to make soothing noises, to make chicken soup, to fuss over the pain-ridden … oh forget it, you obviously didn’t look after yourself properly and you’ve let yourself get sick. Stop giving in to it.

There, I’ve said it. It’s out there.

But, we know about our attitude and we are pleased that as we get older we’re better at biting our tongues and being sympathetic.

Or so we think.

Our husbands, it seems, think differently.

Posted in Learning, Life

On moving …

On August 18, 1986, as a 24 year old mother of four young children, I moved from Brisbane to Tasmania; from being surrounded by family, to a place where we had no family; from a city to a sheep farm; from the relative warmth of a Queensland winter to the depths of a Tasmanian one.

I felt sentenced, although unsure of the length of my sentence.


It turns out my sentence was 27 years, 10 months, and 22 days (or thereabouts).

On Wednesday 25th June, 2014, my sentence ended.

Despite the ‘sentence’, Tasmania ended up being a good place to live – a cold one and I have complained often and bitterly over the years about the cold – but looking back it’s easy to focus on the good parts of living in the state that’s been the butt of mainlanders’ jokes for many years.

During my 27 years and a bit years, I (in no particular order):
* ran a general store in a very small country town
* had a fifth child
* worked in community radio
* completed an undergraduate degree specialising in English and Drama teaching
* taught in a high school and a senior secondary college
* got my bus licence
* taught Drama and English and Tourism Studies
* completed Cert IV in Workplace Training and Assessment
* worked for ABC Local Radio as a producer and presenter
* began A Kick in the Arts – a weekly community radio arts program
* returned to university and completed a PhD
* became an academic and took on a range of leadership roles
* was the chair of a local theatre company for a time
* lived in the north-east, the north-west, and the north – and then the north-west and then the north and then the north-west
* divorced
* re-married 19 years later
* undertook the year-long Tasmanian Leaders Program
* travelled to the mainland whenever I could
* travelled to New Zealand twice, then Scotland and England one year, to Paris and Germany the next and then to France, Italy and Germany the one after that
* published a number of journal articles, book chapters, and conference papers
* edited a textbook
* presented papers in Christchurch, Glasgow, Adelaide, Brisbane, Melbourne, Hobart, and Launceston
* welcomed eight grandchildren into the world
* taught more students than I could ever remember
* supervised four PhD candidates to completion
* put on lots of weight
* lost even more
* met some truly wonderful people


I moved to Tasmania because of my (then) husband’s job.

Almost 28 years later, I’ve moved away from Tasmania because of my (now) husband’s job.


It’s unsettling, this moving business. Sorting out possessions stashed in dark corners of cupboards; throwing out; packing up; spending weekends in Melbourne and week days in Burnie; moving between … between living with my husband in Melbourne on weekends and living with one of my daughters and her two sons through the week. Not feeling like either place is home … one new place that isn’t really mine, and the old, familiar place that is now filled with boys’ toys and laughter and tears and hugs and bubble baths – changed, in a good way, but not really mine. Moving between having my husband cook me dinner on the weekends and cooking dinner for my daughter through the week … between gyms … between relying on public transport and having no public transport … between there and here … and here and there.

My husband and I called two different places home … it was confusing for a time. Where? Oh, that home.

A long time in transition – four months of living between. Not long, looking back … but it felt long living through it.

And now it’s done. The final move … three trips across Bass Strait in five days, each rougher than the one before. Unpacking the car, finding dark corners of cupboards to stash our things, having one home rather than two.

I don’t feel sentenced, in this new place.

I already feel more connected.

And less.



Posted in Life

A personal plea …

Dear follower,

I don’t usually use my blog to promote causes, but this one is a little different, and one I feel passionate about.

This is to let you know that I’m participating in the Run Melbourne 5km event  and will be proudly supporting The Shake It Up Australia Foundation to raise funds to find a cure for Parkinson’s disease, in this life time.

Every day 30 people in Australia are diagnosed with Parkinson’s, and as many as 10% of these people are under the age of 40. This disease currently has no known cure, however through investment in research targeted at finding a cure Shake It Up Australia Foundation and their partner The Michael J Fox Foundation For Medical Research offer hope.

Helping to find a cure for Parkinson’s is something very dear to my heart and I’d really appreciate your support to help me reach my fundraising goal for this great cause.

Here are some ways you can personally help me right now

  • Share my fundraising page with your friends and family
  • Look out for regular updates here to keep abreast of my progress.

Thank you for your support. I really do appreciate it,


Posted in Learning, Life, Writing

Random observations and thoughts

A pirate sits in his car, texting with his eye patch up, while the news blares from his radio.

A silver and a pink balloon float above a fencepost at a house around the corner.

A car does a U-turn outside the house, crunches against the curb and comes to a complete stop. It seems perplexed.


My dress is ready. I’m on my way to the dressmaker now. I’d been walking past the Red Cross shop a few days ago and felt compelled to go in. There it was. A grey wool dress with a touch of black satin at the neckline and cuffs. Simple. Elegant. Beautiful.

Size small.

I tried it on anyway.

Max Mara, the girl with the German accent told me.

It needed a little re-stitching.

It’s ready now. I try it on.

It’s beautiful.


I sit in the downstairs section of the library. I’d ignored the signs saying staff and students only. I am neither a staff member nor a student of this particular institution but I figure that if I look confident no one will notice me.

I find a table in the group learning section. I don’t have a group. I sit at the table alone, surrounded by groups of students, with my laptop open, marking.

Conversations swirl around me. Ideas, concepts, understandings, clarifications, possibilities. Multiple languages. Multiple disciplines. Maths. Graphic design. Nutrition. Engineering. A glass wall covered in formula. Portfolios scattered across tables. Laughter. Swearing. Questions. Comprehension. Propositions.

Intellectual and social and professional engagement.

I wonder about the spaces we create for online students to engage in these rigorous conversations.

Tim says: I’m going to the city with my camera.

I let other thoughts go. They are puzzles for another time.

Now is the time for wandering.